When cough syrups are out – opt for Salabat

Hannah Giron Daygo

Ireland’s Coughing Crisis: As a result of the coughing crisis, many articles reported earlier this week that coughing medicines were running out. However, people can make a homemade remedy to treat their coughs alternatively. 

“Calpol made it to the headlines,” this was the text I received from my mum when I was in the Philippines. She was telling me how there’s a coughing crisis in Ireland due to the cold weather, that people are getting the winter infection (colds, flu and RSV) and to top that off, Covid-19 is still around.

I have never seen cough syrups, making it to the headlines. It was my first time seeing a flood of Irish news outlets reporting on how there’s a demand for cough syrups. Because of that, it made me think for a moment how people are going to treat their coughs when there is a shortage of coughing medicines.

Good thing, I immediately remembered that drinking salabat (sa·la·bát) or ginger tea is an alternative when coughing syrups run out at home. Since I was in the Philippines a few weeks ago, I suggested that if they get coughs, they can just boil sliced ginger and make salabat. 

In our culture, Filipinos use a lot of ginger in our food. I remember I would always separate the small slices of ginger to the edge of my plate when I was younger. I was never a fan, but it all changed when I needed something to soothe my itchy throat and unpleasant coughs.

According to TGP+, a pharmaceutical franchise in the Philippines, “ginger tea or salabat as it is locally known, is a great anti-cough cure.” People might ask, “how about the taste?” Yes, it is spicy – and I’d say that is the point, as the spiciness of the ginger can cool your throat. It’s an alternative if you don’t have lozenges at home. There are health benefits of drinking salabat, sometimes singers use ginger tea to soothe their throats and sometimes relieves sore-throats. But in most cases ginger tea is also for coughs. Some articles have shown that ginger tea can fight respiratory problems as it is a “ natural antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties.”

In the Philippines, my Nanay would peel and cut the ginger or what we call laya (in Ilokano) into good bits, then for a few minutes she would boil it until the water turns into a golden-yellow coloured juice. After that, she would wait until it gets a little bit cooler and make me drink them. She doesn’t make it too cold as it would lose the warmth of the tea. It’s spicy and has a strong taste, so, sometimes, we can add honey (another cough remedy) or sugar. But – drinking salabat as it is, without any sugar actually isn’t that bad! It really can soothe your itchy throat and nasty cough in minutes (although not always guaranteed).

A friendly reminder: make sure you actually peel the ginger before boiling because sometimes the leftover peeled skin could give your throat extra itch.

Drinking ginger tea or salabat in fact helps relieve coughs – I could say that as I’ve also tried it, especially when I had Covid-19 and because of that I will carry this knowledge forever. It’s now my best friend during the winter, every time I would feel like my throat is itchy, I would run for Salabat. In my hometown, they even make salabat coffee powders and sell them in pharmacies and grocery stores. Too bad I did not get any for the winter, but next time I’ll keep that in mind.

Now, if you are currently suffering from itchy throat and heavy cough, you should still get checked by your doctors as antibiotics might be needed. But as a remedy to soothe your itchy throat and cough, you could make salabat at home. You can add honey and lemon if you don’t like the strong taste. 

Some people also drink other herbal medicines as an alternative remedy. In some cases, people suggest making salt and warm water gargle or sometimes drinking lemon tea. If cough syrups are not on hand – opt for salabat or other home remedies. 

If people are going to ask me if this is effective? Without any hesitation I would say – yes! To be honest, I could raise my hand and say I was one of those kids who didn’t like the taste of ginger before – but now, it’s my go-to-drink when coughs get in the way. So, if I were you – run, opt for salabat.

By: Hannah Giron Daygo

Photo by Cup of Couple